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Agency and outcome expectancies for crime desistance: measuring offenders' personal beliefs about change†

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While the majority of offenders eventually desist from crime, the internal psychological mechanisms hypothesized to drive the process of desistance and offender change have not been systematically measured. This study developed scales for assessing intention to change, or offenders' beliefs regarding their perceived ability to stay crime-free (agency) and expected outcomes for crime and desistance (expectancies). Incarcerated offenders (N=142) endorsed these beliefs in a way that is consistent with theories of offender change. The structure of beliefs suggests offenders with positive expectancies for desistance and negative expectancies for crime also endorse a higher sense of personal agency to desist. Outcome expectancies for desistance were unrelated to static risk variables, suggesting these measures may be complementary to risk assessment. Overall, the scales developed for this research showed high internal consistency and evidence for concurrent and construct validity. Refining the measurement methods and assessing recidivism outcome post-release should further advance this avenue of research.

Keywords: agency; antisocial attitudes; crime desistance; offender change; outcome expectancies

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Psychology,Carleton University, Ottawa,Ontario, Canada

Publication date: July 1, 2012


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